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katiegrinding An experiment in industrial coworking by Bob Stack

Dale Dougherty wrote in the kickoff article for this Making Detroit series about how a GO-Tech meeting was a catalyst for the Detroit Maker Faire. Well, GO-Tech, a once-a-month Maker Show and Tell, held on Ann Arbor’s west side, also brought together the members of an incredible experiment in industrial coworking known as the A2 MechShop.

The A2 MechShop is a wonderful example of how, in the spirit of cooperation, the people of metro Detroit will pull together to find an innovative and economical solution to working and competing in tough times. So, instead of writing about what living and working in Metro Detroit has meant to me, I’ll write about our unique shop, and hopefully, will inspire others to undertake a similar venture.

We bill ourselves as “Technical Coworking for Entrepreneurial Engineers”, but we’re unique from other coworking spaces. What sets us apart is that we all have brought and share industrial equipment. We have an electronics lab, a full machine shop with mills, lathes, welding equipment, sheet metal equipment, and several CNC’s. None of the equipment is jointly owned, but in a demonstration of mutual trust, we share everything.

Although having all the machinery and equipment is great, the real resource of the A2 MechShop is the people. There’s a synergy here. We are inspired by each other’s projects. The fact that we are all independent engineers makes it easy for us to share ideas. We are aligned in the type of things we pursue, but we are not in contention. We are not competing for the same contract or promotion. This makes it easy for us to take cooperation beyond sharing machinery, rent, and accepting packages for each other. It is not uncommon for two us to be discussing a way to do something to turn into an impromptu group brainstorming session. Or, to be trying to reinvent the wheel, and have a drive-by consultant offer a simple off-the-shelf solution.

The facet of the A2 MechShop of which I’m most proud is that we are involved in and believe in our community. This spring, we put out a call for an Artist in Residence and accepted two Detroit artists and sculptors, Steven Kuypers and Sharon Que, to spend three weeks each working at the MechShop, allowing them to use our equipment and helping them integrate technology into their art. The GO-Tech maker meeting is held here the second Tuesday of each month. YAAARC, the Ypsilanti Ann Arbor Area Robotics Club, also holds its monthly meeting here the fourth Wednesday of each month. A2geeks holds its board meetings here. And, two of the three organizers of the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire work out of the MechShop.

I’m proud and honored to be a part of the handful of engineers who make up the seven businesses we call the A2 MechShop. I’ve been quoted as saying “I’d happily pay my rent just to hang out with these guys.” And, just as the GO-Tech meeting served as a catalyst for the Detroit Maker Faire and the A2 MechShop, it would be wonderful if the A2 MechShop can serve as an inspiration to some of the many thousands of Detroit area engineers, trades-, and craftsmen who are looking for something new.

If you’d like to know more about the A2 MechShop or one of our events, look me up at the Detroit Make Faire. I’ll be stamping copper butterflies or I can be contacted through [email protected].


Bio:
Bob Stack a lifelong resident of the Detroit area. He worked on an assembly line at General Motors for 15 years, until the plant closed in 1992. He then attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and received a degree in Electrical Engineering the same year he turned 40. Bob is one of the founding members of the A2 MechShop, one of the organizers of the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire, a board member of A2geeks, and co-host of GO-Tech. His interests include art, making, and technology. His latest project is Kosmobot a large animatronic robot for Ann Arbor area restaurant.

More:

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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